Sharply critical comments about Shas that were attributed to Rami Sadan, the new board chairman of Channel 10 News, have sparked a political furor as Interior Minister Arye Dery, head of the ultra-Orthodox party, said Tuesday that his voters cannot be dismissed in such a fashion.
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“Shas voters are hundreds of thousands of Mizrahim who have decided to unite and raise their heads as one to stamp out things like [the sentiments expressed by] Rami Sadan,” he said. “We are here to stay. We will not ignore such statements.”
Haaretz reported Monday that Sadan – an associate of the Netanyahu family who was appointed to his new position at the station in a surprise move – had made harsh statements against Shas and Dery during the board meeting at which he presented his candidacy. Sadan apparently said: “Let’s admit the truth, I, like you in the elite, detest Shas and that thief Arye Dery. But we, as an elite, need to reach beyond the channel’s usual circles, to appeal to the Shas audience, to Masuda from Sderot [i.e., a typical resident of a typical town].”
“At a closed board meeting, people allow themselves to let the truth out, the painful truth,” said Dery. “In Israel of 2016 there is racism. There is scorn for the Mizrahi public [Jews of Middle East or North African origins]. There are those who feel they can patronize an entire public that is part of this country. This should not be happening either in public or in a closed board meeting. I call upon the prime minister, who also serves as the minister of communications, and upon the cabinet members and MKs to make their voices heard. This despicable attack against an entire public solely due to its ethnicity cannot be ignored.”
A Shas spokesman said Tuesday that “the comments made by Rami Sadan are appalling. These are racist and condescending statements levelled against a movement that represents hundreds of thousands of people in Israel. They were said at a meeting where Sadan laid out his point of view, before the board of the news division, which makes it all the more serious. It is extremely troubling that such a person is close to the prime minister and to the Netanyahu family. Shas is calling on Channel 10 to reconsider his appointment to this top position.”
Haaretz has learned that in wake of these developments, Sadan conveyed a message to Dery’s office, claiming that the reports were not true and insisting that, “’Enlightened’ types are disappointed by the appointment of a religious person to the post and are trying to stir up trouble among the different religious groups.”
Sadan requested a meeting with the interior minister but Dery refused. Sadan did not respond to Haaretz’s request for comment, but in an interview with the Kikar Hashabbat website, he said: “It never happened, they’re trying to stir up conflict among religious people. The quotes attributed to me are false.”
This is not the first time that Sadan has denied comments that he reportedly made. In a report to the Second Broadcasting Authority, Sadan claimed that quotes attributed to him regarding coverage of the so-called Bibi Tours affair by journalist Raviv Drucker, cited in an interview with Arutz Sheva, were false – even though a recording of the interview was available online.
Regarding Bibi Tours (involving possible multiple billings of travel expenses incurred by Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu), Sadan said, “The press has been after Netanyahu and his wife since 1996 they keep on obsessively spreading stories the way the press focuses so intensively on this, trying to show the ugly face of Israel, is a sickness, a pathology.”
The Channel 10 board plans to immediately investigate what Sadan said, and decide whether his appointment will go ahead. One board member says: “I was appalled by his statements. There’s no way someone with such views should be chosen for the position. I hope the exposure will lead to the cancellation of the appointment.”
Monday, someone present at the board meeting at which Sadan reportedly made his offensive comments, said they “reeked of condescension and racism.”
Channel 10 economics reporter Matan Hodorov wrote via Twitter Tuesday that he had contacted MK Yitzhak Cohen of Shas to disassociate himself and his fellow journalists at the station from Sadan’s comments. “Racism, condescension and elitism have no place here,” Hodorov wrote.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid also denounced Sadan’s remarks for being racist and reeking of hatred: “Someone who holds such a position in a major news organization in a democratic country should not be saying such things against any person or organization or political party and its voters. We call on Sadan to take back his comments and to apologize to Shas voters, Shas MKs and the party chairman.”
For her part, MK Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Union) wrote on Twitter that Sadan is “a pathetic racist he detests Masuda but he needs her Woe to those who approved the appointment.”
Sadan’s appointment as Channel 10 News board chairman was supported by the five members of the RGE group, which owns the controlling stake in the station, and by Nana website CEO Yoav Heldman. The three other public representatives besides Sadan on the board opposed his appointment, which was unexpected. Sadan did not initially submit his candidacy for the position, but after doing so just days ago, received the necessary support from the other members.